Pebble Bar has been open barely more than a few months and already it’s become one of the toughest bars and lounges in all of New York to get into.
Opened by the same team behind downtown staples like The Smile, The Jane Ballroom, and Ray’s, Pebble Bar also has celebrity clout, with investors like Pete Davidson, Jason Sudeikis, Mark Ronson, Justin Theroux, and Nicholas Braun. But more than that, it also has a rich history as the former location of legendary dive bar Hurley’s. Nicknamed “Studio 1H” for its proximity to Rockefeller Center, Hurley’s opened in 1892 and was beloved for decades by everyone from Johnny Carson to the cast and crew of Saturday Night Live before it closed in 1999.
Haven’t been able to get a table? That’s where we come in. Welcome back to The One Who Keeps the Book, a regular series that aims to answer all the most important questions about how to get into a restaurant. The first solution is Resy, of course. But every restaurant manages its tables differently, and there are always tips, tricks, and shortcuts to be discovered. So here, we go straight to the source to get them for you.
At Pebble Bar, Ryan Williams, maître d’ and guest experience manager gives us the scoop on how to get in, and what to order once you’re there.
First things first: It helps to understand the layout. Pebble Bar has a total of three floors: the first floor is just the entrance, where a greeter will guide you upward; the stylish second floor bar is only for walk-ins only; and the more intimate yet still lively third floor is where they take reservations, and a few walk-ins.
According to Williams, it’s not at all impossible to get into Pebble Bar; it’s really all about timing. Here are his tips.
Resy: How many seats are there at Pebble Bar?
Williams: We have about 16 stools on the second floor and four high-top tables. We have some rails so there’s a lot of places to be comfortable. On the third floor, we have 34 seats, but it fluctuates between 33 and 36.
How are the scenes different on each floor?
The second floor is really a bar. We don’t serve food down there. There’s a lot more conversation and people standing around ordering drinks — that whole Midtown bar experience. It gets really busy for that post-work crowd. You see a lot of shoulder bags and backpacks, but what I like about them is that they work at marketing agencies and media companies, and places like Christie’s, so they’re not the typical finance crew.
The third floor is much cozier, quieter, darker, and sexier. That floor to me is really good for a date, a business meeting, a couple friends grabbing drinks before or after a show or before they go somewhere for the night. It’s more intimate. But it also has a lot of energy. There’s a lot of conversation happening, a lot of laughter, a lot of fun.
A Closer Look at Pebble Bar
When do reservations drop on Resy?
Thirty-one days out at midnight. They book up quickly.
How quickly do reservations get booked out?
Within a week, we’re booked for the corresponding week. You’ll have more open reservations on Sundays and Mondays, but even within a week or two, those get filled up pretty quickly. And we are looking to seat more walk-ins. We’re keeping a couple more tables fully open, rather than allowing them to be booked up on the early side.
And travel is just picking back up, so I do think in the coming two to three months we’ll see more tourists here, especially in the summer. I still get emails from people right now who are coming into town and have heard about Pebble Bar. They’re trying to make their reservations a month in advance or three weeks in advance before they get here. We do our best to accommodate those people as well because we don’t want to leave them out of the experience.
What are your busiest times?
Wednesday and Thursday between 5 and 7 p.m. are really busy. As soon as we open the door at 5, by 5:10, we can’t let more people in because it’s packed for that first round of post-work drinks on the second floor. We form a line outside. We want it to be comfortable; we don’t want to pack it in. Sometimes by 5:45, after that first group has had two drinks, they leave and there’s more room. For seated cocktails on the third floor, we are probably busiest between 6:30 and 10 p.m., which is probably the hardest time to get a table as a walk-in.
How many covers do you do on a given night?
I would say we average around 100. But some nights there are 130, and some nights there are 85. It just depends.
How long is your Notify list on average? Is there a specific day or time when you’re likely to get off the list?
We haven’t really been using Resy’s Notify feature as much because we wanted to allow more space for walk-ins rather than seeing a cancellation and then sending an email to someone. For someone who’s approached us and has come here that wants to be here, I would like to reward them with a potential opportunity to join us for food as well. Right now, we’re focusing on the people who are here, or the people who have requested to be here and who have been able to book a reservation. I feel like my focus as the maître d’ and guest experience manager is to make sure that people who are here have a really good experience. I would prefer to seat a walk-in who’s in the building than to notify someone that a table opened up, and they’re coming from downtown and rushing here. It’s just an anxiety-building experience in my opinion, for everyone.
What are some of your best tips for getting a spot at Pebble Bar?
Be a regular, support us, come in, and you’ll figure that out. We’d like to support regulars and people who support us.
Come try hanging out on the second floor if you can’t get a reservation. Make conversations with hosts or myself and see what you can do. Sometimes we have something available. You can try sending an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org; sometimes we’re able to fulfill reservation requests that way. Definitely don’t try to contact us today for tonight. That’s not going to happen.
Be nice. These are simple human things. That goes a really long way with us. Be friendly. We take care of people who are like-minded.
How long is the wait for walk-ins?
Sometimes you wait two minutes, sometimes half an hour. It depends on the evening. But it’s always worth seeing if you can get on the second floor. We try our best to not to turn people away; that’s not in the ethos of our brand. We’re all about New Yorkers, about people who show up as much as we take reservations. We want people to become regulars. That’s a big part of what makes Pebble Bar unique to this neighborhood.
How many seats are kept open for walk-ins?
On the second floor, it’s only walk-ins. On the third floor, we keep around two two-tops, and a four-top [for walk-ins].
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday are when you have the most luck getting a table.
When would be best to try for a third-floor walk-in table?
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday are when you have the most luck getting a table while also being patient. If you come in, we’re honest with people. We’re like, hey, you can grab a drink downstairs and it might be 30 minutes, it might be 45. I may have a table that opens up and I may only be able to seat you for an hour if I have another reservation coming, and we will happily seat people for a short period of time. If they just wanted to hang, you get half an hour downstairs at the bar, you get an hour upstairs at the table, and you can go back down to the bar and continue it, but it just depends on what people are willing to do. We do try to work with everyone and give them as much of the experience of Pebble Bar as we can.
Can you book tables for larger groups?
We’re working out that process. Currently, we are only able to take large groups 31 days in advance, before our books open. So, if you wanted to book a group of eight, or 10, or 12, we could potentially accommodate that. If our books aren’t open, this way we can set the tables aside and put those tables together. That said, we also would require a pre-order with our kitchen so we are prepared as far as food goes and that it’s a seamless experience. That’s how we would make room for larger groups over five.
We can currently accommodate groups under five. But we don’t really like to do six or more people; it makes it feel awkward in the room because you’re just putting chairs in random places, and it’s really small. But I would say groups of anywhere from six to eight people, we can accommodate potentially within that 30-day window. Anything beyond 30 days, we can accommodate around 16 people, but that would require a pre-order and a bit more of a process.
What are Pebble Bar’s quieter times?
Saturday evenings and Sundays. We actually get really busy between 9 p.m. and close on Saturdays, but it’s easier to get a table in that earlier evening slot. Saturdays may be busier when it’s warmer.
Sundays are pretty much easier to get a reservation for the entire evening, but the five o’clock to seven o’clock slots on Sundays fill faster. I’ve noticed more open tables after 6:30 to 7 p.m. on a Sunday.
What’s the best seat in the house? Can diners request specific tables or floors?
No, we don’t do specific table reservations. We try to be as accommodating as we can. But I’m very mindful of how I seat people. Honestly, we’re a very intimate space, so I feel like most of the tables are nice tables to be at in general. If someone’s coming in for a reservation and they’re two people, I try to give them a corner table. If I don’t have anyone there, even though it’s a four-top, I’ll seat this anniversary there, or this birthday party there. I like to build that experience for people even when it’s unexpected. And honestly, there are just two center tables; those are our two-tops that people tend to not really want. But at the end of the day, once you get settled in there and you get settled into the energy of the room, you don’t even realize you’re sitting in the middle of a room. That’s how intimate the space is. I understand when people make these requests, but I think once you get settled in it’s actually a really fun experience.
I know Pebble Bar has only been open for a few months, but have you had any memorable exchanges at the door with any guests trying to get in?
The thing that happens the most is people saying they’re here for a reservation, or they’re here to meet someone who’s at a table and in fact, they’re just at the bar on the second floor, which is for walk-ins. So, if your group is arriving at different times, that doesn’t automatically grant you access because they’re inside at a high-top table. But people do try to leverage that and then say, ‘Oh, well, we’re here because of this reservation,’ and it’s usually not a reservation. Otherwise, people just wait in line.
No one’s dropped any names of our investors. Someone has tried to name drop our director of events. He was someone who rented out the room earlier in the week and thought, ‘I know Joel, so I should get in’ and we’re like, well, sorry, you don’t have a reservation and Joel is here, so you can text him. Typically, when people name drop anyone who works in the building, that doesn’t work because we all communicate. None of my friends or clients from other places would just drop my name and think they can get in. They would text me first because they know that’s how I operate. And that’s how we all operate.
It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene at the bar?
At the bar on the second floor, I would say it’s 70% filled and everyone looks like they’re going out for the evening, as opposed to another night where they look like they’re coming from work. And there’s just a nice group of people in there that look interesting. You can tell who’s going to Radio City or who has dinner plans. They’re all just hanging out and having fun. And it’s a lot milder than the other nights, but in a good way, in my opinion. On the third floor, we’re usually pretty packed. And by 7 p.m., we’re 100% seated and so there’s a lot of energy in the room. But I do notice that people are just drinking more on Fridays. They’ll come in for a couple rounds of drinks and not really order much food. But usually on Fridays, I notice that our turns are faster and it’s more drink-oriented than both food and drink.
What kind of music do you play?
What’s really cool is that Mark Ronson made playlists for us, so there’s a big mix. We have a jazz playlist, a funk playlist, a higher BPM playlist with music from the ’70s to today, another playlist with rap, hip hop, and R&B. It depends on the evening. Pink Floyd, Radiohead, James Brown, Anderson .Paak, David Bowie. It’s meant to meld multiple eras and show their connection.
If you’re visiting Pebble Bar for the first time, what should you order?
You should definitely get the steak tartare. It’s quite indulgent: Wagyu steak, truffle oil, a brioche bun. It’s more like a sandwich, which is unique to us. We top it with some caviar and chives. It’s very tasty, rich, and beautiful. It’s honestly the most unique steak tartare I’ve ever had. The scallop crudo is a hit as well.
The most popular cocktail is The Ubiquity, which is a vodka, ginger-based cocktail. I don’t even drink vodka and when I see that on the menu, it’s what I want. And we have the Hurley’s Old Fashioned, inspired by Hurley’s, the dive bar that was here. I’m an Old Fashioned drinker, and we make a really good one. Everyone loves these really big ice cubes where we stamped on the Pebble Bar logo, too.
What excites you most about Pebble Bar?
I’m excited about our location’s deep history and how what we’re doing reflects New York City now. I noticed the resurgence of Midtown last year. It’s all coming together and it’s exciting that we’ve garnered a lot of attention.
Pebble Bar is open Sunday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to midnight., and Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Elyssa Goodman is a New York-based writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, InsideHook, and other publications. She is currently at work on her first book, Glitter and Concrete: A Cultural History of Drag in New York, forthcoming from Hanover Square Press. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.